Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jounalistic incompetence? or toadying? or both?

Gee golly whillikers. Seems it was just two days ago I said that when the New Brunswick people who count met for their summit meeting on the community, The Moncton Times would report it in flattering terms, and it would run a flattering editorial. Turns out I understimated the The Moncton Times enthusiasm for bootlicking.

It was the lead news article today, Tuesday, which means the story was written before the the first meeting was even held. There really wasn't any story to write yet. It simply repeated what it had already reported several days ago. But there it was, top of page one.

As for the editorial, well, it was obvious the editorial writer was in a dreadful tizzy, worrying about the order in which he/she should lick all those boots.

How would a competent and ethical newspaper have acted?
1. The assignment editor would have assigned a reporter to get information we don't yet have. And he/she would go over some questions with the reporter. For example:
a) Exactly how were the participants chosen? Were they elected? If not, who picked them?
b) Why were teachers selected as a group to be represented? If teachers, why not dentists? and retired people? and the poor? and the unemployed? and electricians? and truck drivers? and country singers? In fact, that whole summit gathering represents, perhaps, one percent of the population - all tarted up to pretend they represent a broad spectrum of opinion.
c) What, exactly, is meant by non-profit groups? Does that mean The Salvation Army and the churches? Does it mean social workers? Does it mean bloggers (I mean, this is as non-proft as it gets.)
Hint - non profit mean the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, New Brunswick's pimp for big business. Technically, it doesn't make a profit for itself. It's job to to spread propaganda that will help its wealthy supporters make profits.
d) What are the unions thinking of in taking part in a scam like this? Now, there's a questiono I'd dearly love to know the answer to.
e) How could the organizers, Ganong and Theriault, make a public announcement of one of the  major recommencations of the report (no tax increases) BEFORE THE SUMMIT HAD ITS FIRST MEETING?
Such an announcement makes the whole summit meeting a farce.
f) If they aren't going to raise taxes, how do they think they are going to reduce the debt?
g) If the leaders of the summit have made it a farce by announcing a conclusion before the group has even met, how can any person of integrity take part in it?

3. As for the editorial, it was, as expected, kiss kiss on both cheeks. The editor agreed completely that there must be no tax increases; and didn't even mention that crashing blunder of annoucing a major recommendation before the meeting was even held.
A very strange thing about the editorial is that the editor did not raise the issue of teachers being represented at an economic summit.  But aren't these the same teachers the editorial writers have been public insulting for their incompetence and laziness for the past year? Has The Moncton Times changed its mind about teachers?

The editorial gives high praise the the business orentation of the summit, and to the addition of the mayor of Moncton. These assure economic wisdom.

The editorial writer seems not to remember that these same business leaders and the mayor of Moncton, just months ago, were coming in their pants with joy at the idea of us borrowing 84 million to build a hockey rink. Hadn't they noticed there was a world economic crisis so obvious that even I knew about it a year ago? And even I knew the government debt was too high. But a business leader like the owner of the hockey team was quoted in The Moncton Times as saying it was a great idea. Will he be one of the experts giving us advice on how to run the economy.?

I haven't seen a combination like that of bad reporting, bad assigning, bad editing, and unethical editorial writing since, well, since four days ago in The Moncton Times.

So let's try another prediction. The editorial page will praise the final report of the summit. Its recommendations will be .....
1. Do not raise taxes - unless you absolutely have to. Then, make sure you do not raise them on big corporations or the wealthy. Hit the middle class and the poor.
2. There will be no mention about electricty rates for large corporations. Those must stay low.
3. There will have to be cuts in government services - like social services, education, that kind of stuff. (But no cut in hockey rinks if the federal government is crazy enough to contribute to a new one for Moncton.  Oh, and of course, we'll keep looking for a CFL team that will just need a few million dollars of taxpayers' help to make some millionaire owner into a billionaire.)
4. There will also have to be cuts in the civil service (but the report won't call it cutting. They'll call it "streamlining" the civil service to make it more efficient.) The same reasoning will be applied to social services and education.
5. There will be a recommendation that a good deal of work now done by government should be contracted out to the coporate leaders who are attending the summit. They will claim this will save taxes. (It won't. It's been tried before, in the US. It's not cheaper. It's more expensive.)

The general message of the summit can be summed up in five words. Government bad. Big business good.
And that's not fair. I have no love for either the Liberals or Conservatives of New Brunswick. I think they're both patsies for corporate leaders. That's why it's not fair to blame the government for our problems. The people to be blamed for our problems are the ones who control whichever party is in governmnent. You can tell lthem that tomorrow when they'll all be gathered at the summit.

Oh - I guess The Moncton Times shouldn't be expected to know ancient history like the 1920s, 30s, and the second world war. The idea behind the summit  - bringing people together to represent certain groups, and then pretending that gives it authority of some sort is called corporatism.  It means that, like this summit, people of power and influence get invited to the summit, with a few other groups, like teachers and unions, added for decoration. There was a surge of corporatism in Europe beginning in the 1920s.

Corporatism is quite different from democracy. Democracy means we all have the same rights - as individuals. Corporatism means we have rights ONLY according the the group we belong to - and the boss gets the right to decide which groups are the ones that count. You have rights, maybe, but only depending on the groups you belong to. And that means that most people have no rights at all.

Earlier this month, the editorials of The Moncton Times patriotically reminded us to remember our war dead and to honour them. Obviously, it has itself forgotten why they died. They died fighting fascism. Corporatism, giving rights according to group membership, was the foundation stone of fascism.

This week, we are taking a giant step back to the 1920s, back to Benito Mussolini - Il Duce. And as I watch the failure of New Brunswick and of the New Brunswick press to even realize what it is happening, let alone their cheering for it, I really despair of this place.

Well, raise right hands high. Palms up. Remember that next November 11.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Governments Have Failed says Ganong and Theriault.

surprise, surprise!  Two days before their summit even meets, messers. Ganong and Theriault have announced the solution to New Brunswick's fiscal problems. Yessirree. New Brunswick has relied too much on the politicians, both federal and provincial, to do anything for the economy. Government just can't do it. But you know who can?

Another big surprise. Private business can. Damn right. Look what a great job private business has done in a century of controlling places like Haiti - and well over a century in Congo. Look at the wonderful things American private bankers have done for the US economy.

Come off it, G and T. Your summit is a scam. It will certainly be praised by the Moncton TandT. But that's vritually proof that it's a scam.

Polioticians have never in our lifetimes been in charge of anything in New Brunswick. Its always been big business. Corporations and the wealthy pay for both major parties - and they get something for their money. If there's a fiscal crisis, nobody is more responsible for it than the kind of people who will dominate the "summit". (Summit - boy. Talk about making a mountain out of a  molehill.)

New Brunswick is going to go the same route as most of the industrial powers. All are in economic trouble because of the power which pays off in underegualtion of corporations, undertaxing of the wealthy, and loans and other favours to corporations. And now they're making the poor pay for the mess they made. The bankers behind the US crisis got bailouts, and get to pay low taxes on their multi-million dollar bonuses. But the poor in the US are being made to pay through cuts in social services, cuts in education, cuts in basic human needs.

That's what the summit is about. We've been ripped off for decades by big business. Now, we're going to get hit to get hit for a problem we never caused.

Will New Brunswickers go for the bait? You get they will. Heck. They've been fooled for years into thinking Liberals and Conservatives are different, and fooled into believing politicians of either party actually run the province.

Nail the poor? Sure thing. Cut taxes for the rich? You can bet on it. What we are going to see is a summit of sharks pretending they're gathering to help swimmers who are drowning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Norbert Cunningham.

Young Norbert is the editorial page editor of the Moncton TandT. He often writes a column on that page about our use of words  Without exception, I look enjoy. He understand the subject well; I'm interested in that subject; and he writes well. He appeared again on Friday, Nov. 26. But this time, it was an embarassment to read.

It wasn't about words. It was about politicians and the news media. And it was a dreadful misuse of words as well as - how can I describe it....?

First he uses the labels Conservative and Liberal as though they actually mean something more than party labels. They will vary a little, depart a little each from the other from time to time. You know, like a red car is different from a blue car of the same make and model. A person who understands the uses of words so well should know that.

He also seems to think the word Conservative means the same as conservative. And Liberal means the same as Liberal. They don't. Harper is a liberal in the true meaning of the word.  He's a late nineteenth century liberal. But he's a liberal. Ignatieff is whatever he thinks is useful. That will probably be a little less liberal than Harper. But not much.

In any case, not one person in ten thousand knows the meaning of either word.  John A. MacDonald knew what the words meant. That's why he always called himself a Liberal-Conservative. But then the Liberals came along and, under Laurier, changed themselves into Liberal-Conservatives but still called themselves Liberals. So the old Liberal-Conservatives had to call themselves something else. For a while, they called themselves Progressive Conservatives. But that didn't fool anybody. So they chose the only other label that voters were familiar with.

Then he accuses the news media of picking on the Harper Conservatives just because of some scandals.
Hello? Norbert? Isn't the media supposed to report scandals in our democratic system? Are you suggesting our news media are all owned by Liberals? If so, wouldn't that make The whole New Brunswick press, including young Norbert, Liberal? And the National Post? And all those other millionaires who own news media?

In the end, he ends up as so many Americans have - using liberal and conservative as swear words that don't mean the same thing to any two people.

He ends up defending the Conservatives for not going too far in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.  Well, yes, they can be defended against such a charge. In fact, they've done less than any other country in the industrial world to deal with the question at all. That's quite likely one reason why Canada is now in the global toilet of world opinion.

Please, Norbert. Give us more great columns on words. Leave the political commentary to Sarah Palin.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Moncton Tiimes and Catching Up to Congo and Haiti and Guatemala

New Burnswick has an economic critis coming - so we's all excited about a summit conference on the eononomy coming up this weekend. It's essentially a business confeence - with a few others tossed in as decorations. The Moncton Times and Trnascript, as always, is opening its pages to some of the greedier elements in the corporation world to express their veiws. (Their views do not ever involve sacrifices on the part of big business. No, it's them poor people what's the problem.

Today's gem (Nov, 25) us by a David Barnett who's all esccited and wetting his pants about the summit meeting this weekend. He is a certified business analyst (which means close to nothing but it sounds like, you know, professional. Actually, like think tanks, CBIs are fronts for big business. This one is a gem.

Why are we facing an economic crisis? Well, it can't be the light tax load we ask from big business, or the contract or grants or free land we've given them. No. The big cause is the minimum wage. Trouble is, you see, the poor have the silly idea they should be able to live on in.  Well, they shouldn't. After all, we can get that work done in China or Haiti aor Congo or Guatemala where people are not so spolied as to expect to live.

We need ti be bold says Mr. Barnett. We need to give people incentives to work. Yeah. that's what we need. How do you think Mr. Ganong, the chair of the summit got rich? Well, he had the guts, gumption and inventive to have a rich daddy. That's the kind of spirit New Brunswick needs.

So, instead of a single morther staying home with a child just getting welfare. she can find work for seven bucks an hour or so - and the government will top it off to welfare level. That way she can get back her sefl esteem and learn to solve her problems through he own efforts. (Gee, what a wizard idea. That could have saved a bundle on bank and automotive bailours.) And, of course, the baby will soon catch on to looking after itself in whatever kind of housing one can get at that level and with whatever kind of food one can buy.
And,  just for example, if she finds a job with a dollar an hour raise, that would be a great motive to encourage her to solve her own problems.

Good news for Mr. Barnett. Some of our great world leaders have led millions to this heaven where there are no taxes at all for the corporations, no minimum wage, no services. And they work like a charm, and have worked for over a century. Congo, Haiti, Guatemala....
Go live there, Mr. Barnett. You'll love it. Send us more articles about how wonderful it is. And don't worry. The Moncton Times and Telegraph will print any crap you can imagine. Right there on the Op Ed page. You'll be welcome. The owner of the paper is a forward thinking guy, just like you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Canadian Tax Federation's Love-In With Moncton Times

The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, despite its democratic sounding title, is another of those propaganda outfitls for the rich in Canada - like the Fraser Institute, Aims, and the rest, all the ones who want you to think they're on your side; so when it sends an article in, The Moncton Times wets its pants in excitement, and puts it right on the editorial page itself - along with a kiss-up editorial. (Say what you like. The people who run The Times know where their paycheques are coming from.)

The big pitch here is that we have to reduce the debt; and there are two ways to do that. One would be to raise taxes. The other would be to cut services. The Times and The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation are in favour of cutting services. Of course. We have our children in under-maintaned and even dangerous schools because we have been underfunding education even before the economic crisis. But that's where some of the cuts will have to come from. We have the elderly to care for. We  have families that work hard, but still live in poverty. Tough. We'll have to cut programmes for thrm.

We have people don't work nearly as hard as minimum wage workers, but make many times higher salaries, people who don't have to worry dangerous schools or poverty, or heating bills or malnutrition. The names Ganong and Thibaudeault spring to mind - you know - the economic summit boys.

Now, what we have is a tax system that undertaxes the rich and corporations. It also does them substantial favours that the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation seems not to notice. Meanwhile, the poor and th middle classes pay taxes that are high, though often hidden. Provincial lotteries are a ttax, deliberately aimed at the poor. So is the casino. So are sales taxes. So are education fund-raisers.

The rich don't give a damn about the rest of us. That's why they could drool over the prospect of a new, 80  plus million dollar hockey arena, but can't find the money to maintain public schools.

Forget the nonsense about how if we tax corporations, they'll get made at us and leave and we'll all be poor. Corporations are not here to give out money. They're here to take it out. You get some of it. Just a little bit.
The myth is that if you keep taxes low, the rich will create ever more more, and we'll all ge more and more prosperous.

It's theory that flies in the face of long experience. If cutting taxes for the rich created prosperity, then New Brunswick would make any oil emirate look like a slum. Haiti is a nearby example of a country where business has paid huge profits to the owners for a century, but has left most of the Haitians in wretched condition.
Not raising taxes on corporations or the rich simply gives them more to take away, and less for us to spend on what New Brunswick needs. That's what we're watching in the US. Banks have been loaned vast sums of money. They're used it to give huge bonusses to each other and to shareholders. But not mot much has made its way down to the taxpayers.

Of course not, corporations and the rich can then spend it wherever they want to. It's possible that not a penny would get back.

Meanwhile, most money spent by government does stay here (though, alas, much of it goes to the rich and corporations who are friends of the government.)

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation likes to pretend it's there to help you. It isn't. Neither is the Moncton Times @ Transcript.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Moncton High School

The NB government has great concern about Moncton High School. They're afraid it might cost too much to repair - and certainly too much to rebuild. If they do anything at all, they will have to cut something else in the education budget, a budget that's already much too small.

This is the same provincial government and municipal government that thinks Moncton's A1 priority, and is willing to borrow the money for it, (as well as pay a heftier federal tax for a large part of it) is a new hockey arena at eighty million plus. Hey, the whole world is talking about the Moncton Wi\ldcats. Grrrr! Well, almost the whole world. From here to Sussex. Maybe.

Tough luck kids. Not to worry, though. The Moncton Times&Transcript keeps us up to date so we know how lousy the schools are and how lazy the teachers are and how the teacher's union runs everything and has a secret brothel in a retirement home somewhere close to the Wesleyan Methodist church on St. George. So you kids aren't missing anything.  (Ever notice the Times never criticizes the minister of education?)

Actually, the future of this province does not lie in giving more grants and tax breaks to corporations. The Summit Meeting will say it is. But that's because The Summit Meeting is being sponsored by big corporations. You'l notice there are no people invited to sit at the meeting to represent, say, people who don't know how they're going to pay for heat this winter.

The children in our schools ARE the future of this province. We need schools that can teach well, and that can hold them at least to the end of high school. Our schools do both of those things well; in the latter case coming up best in Canada (though the editorial writer, perhaps having a bad moustache day, thought that being the best was bad and deserved a severe putdown.

We need graduates who can go on to produce the skilled workers that business needs if it's going to grow in New Brunswick. This province is not going to break into the economic big leagues sitting on its collective rear end watching hockey games and catering to trade shows to help the hotel business.

But the City Council of Moncton and the provincial government were both eager to pay over half of the cost of that arena.

Even to maintain the present level of education spending is inadequate. Almost all of the schools need serious maintenance. They also need more money for supplies and staff. But we have leaders, both political and  economic, whose top priority is an 84 million dollar hockey arena. And that is beneath contempt.

No. One thing is lower. Citizens who will let them get away with it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Brunswick Enters a New Era - Sort Of...

In today's Moncton Times, there is a must read article on the op ed (the page opposite the editorial page.)
That's a prominent spot in a newspaper. But in this great and free land of ours, anybody can write his or her opinion there. All you have to do is to be named something like Donald Ganong (Chairman of some business) or Camille Theriault ) chairman of some business. In any case, these jes' ordinary folks is settin' up a summit to decide how to run the province.

Oh, I know. In a democracy, people are supposed to involve themselves in keeping informed, then to play their roles in political parties to decide what the want for themselves. But in NB, as in North American in general, New Brunswickers rarely bother to be informed. They leave the whole thing up to corporation heads. Then the corporation heads give piles of money to both Liberals and Conservatives who both have whatever policies the corporation heads tell them to. And then we have the excitement of an election so we can all pretend we have a democracy just  like - well, whoever does have one these days.

It should be a short meeting. Messers Ganong and Thibeault already know the answer to our economic problems.  They write in the article that the only way to go is to encourage private business - but con't go after corporations from outside the province.  In other words, help the big companies that are already here. (I thought that's what we've always done. In fact, I thought that we're in trouble because that's thw ay it's always been done. But, then, I ain't smart like messter Ganong and Thilbeault.)

They say, quite correctly, that all people have a share in developing a healthy economy. But you can understand had hard it would be to get a table to seat everybody.So they're inviting leaders in business, unions, education, health care, non-profits (propaganda outfits like Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies, and government.  The don't say how they will choose those leaders - but I think we can guess it will be essentially a meeting of business leaders along with AIMS and governmennt leaders who are puppets of big business, and an assortment of kiss-ups from education, health care and unions.

That doesn't represent mearly all people of New Brunswick. But, what the hell, most New Brunswickers have long ago shown they don't want to be consulted and they don't want to know anything. That why they buy the Times and Transcript.

In short, this "summit" is a propaganda gimmick for the rich and their favourite club, AIMS. And the day after the meeting, the headline on The Moncton Times will be Summit Meeting a Big Success. There will also be an editorial in praise.

In reality. This is a mug's game to rip us off once more. Thank you messrs. Ganong and Thibeault for your leadership. It's a please to be ripped off in both, official languages.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Big Stories The Moncton Times Will Screw Up

Imagine, two huge stories in barely a week! Watch The Moncton Times dance on these.

1. Shawn Graham may be investigated for conflict of interest in the course of his dreary premiership. If he is found guilty (if there is even an investigation - which I doubt), The Moncton Times will say it was simply a lapse of judgement on Shawn's part.

There's a certain reasonableness in that. I don't think that Shawn Graham or any other MLA is guilty of any corruption - not really. But let's stop playing games. New Brunswick is a "just pretend" democracy. Whether Liberals or Conservatives win, they owe it all to donations from corporations and wealthy individuals. And corporations and wealthy individuals want a return on their money - out of our pockets. So - you gotta be sorry for poiticians who get confused. The line between corruption and normal poilitics in New Brunswick is pretty fine. Perhaps a real investigation should start with the parties' donors. (But, no, The Times editorial will not suggest that).

2. Leaders of the various Atlantic region corporations will meet at a summit,says Mr. Ganong (one of the boys) to discuss how to deal with an economic crisis.

The Moncton Times will carry an editorial praising them. Then, in the WE SAY section, the editorial writer will kiss the rear end of every corporate leader in the province.

In reality, it's almost comic that Mr Ganong and his buddies would be meeting to give advice on how to handle an economic crisis. After all, they've really been running the region for decades. If there is to be a crisis, they are the ones who caused it.

But guess who they'll say has to pay for it.

And The Moncton Times will kiss up to that, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Editorial IQ

I owe the editorial writer of The Moncton Times an apology. In the past, some of my comments could have been read as suggesting he/she/it lies. As I read today's lead editorial, I realized how unfair that was. He/she/it isn't lying. He/she/it is painfullly ignorant  - and not just about matters of education.

Today's (Nov. 16) editorial was in praise of Harper's decision to stay on in Afghanistan in a training role. Just a few points...
1. Harper is not allowing parliament to decide - or even to know the details. Remember Nov. 11? The day The Moncton Times made a big noise about remembering the sacrifices of our soldiers? One of the things we're supposed to remember is that as a result of their sacrifice, we won the right - through our elected represntatives - to decide when to declare war and when to declare peace. I guess that editorial writer also has severe memory problems.
2. The Afghanistan army has been training for at least a half dozen years. It is now trained and many times bigger than any force the Taliban has. They don't need our training.
3. There is no non-combat role in Afghanistan, not even in the capital. As the situation deteriorates, and it will, We will have to somehow get a thousand soldiers out of there.
4. The other NATO countries will not pick up the slack. Why on earth would they? Exactly what would they or we get from any victory - even if such were possible?
5. We do not have an international commitment to be in Afghanistan. No international commitment can override international law. Our presence there is illegal. There is NO evidence that the Taliban had any connection whatever with the Taliban. Don't believe my word. Read public reports by the CIA.
6.The only reason we are in Afghanistan is pressure coming from big business in Canada (going back to Chretien and Martin) which wanted to be in US good books for purposes of increasting our US market. If you remember crowds marching through our streets demanding war, please tell us about it.
Canadians died to help the Canadian Council of CEOs make money. Now Harper is putting more lives at risk.
7. As for the idea that pulling out would give Canada an international black eye, if the writer will look back just a few weeks, he/she/it might notice that Canada already has a black eye. That's why we lost our run at a seat on the security council. A prime reason we have a black eye is because we're in Afghanistan.

If anybody disagrees with this, please tell us exactly why we are there. And don't give me that crap about helping the women folk. Saudi Arabia is far worse in its treatment of women - and it's our trusted ally. Besides, you don't help women much by blowing them up.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Times and MacLean's Dumb Meets Dumber

The is no such thing as a "best university". There is not even such thing as a test to determine the quality of a university. The MacLean's survey of Canadian universities is a crock, a sales trick run by magazine editors who know nothing about education. In fact, the interference of MacLean's has actually done serious damage to any hope of improving Canadian universities.

The editorial in Saturday's Nov. 13 issue of The Moncton Times and Transcript congratulates Mount Allison for its MacLean's ranking of being the best undergraduate school in Canada. Of course. The editors of both MacLean's and The Moncton Times have a long record of solemn pronouncements on things they know nothing about.

Is a good university one that has good teachers? If that's the case, all universities in Canada are the same because almost all professors have the same training in education. That is, they have none at all. I spent nine years of training in history in universities. I was never required to take a single course in university teaching. Nor was there one available if I had wished to take it. No university teacher from my freshman year to PhD ever told me a word about teaching. (I realize now that none had a word about teaching to tell me, anyway.)

I taught for forty years at four universities in Canada, two in The Netherlands, and one in Hong Kong. All the discussion I ever heard about the purpose and methods of teaching in university could be summed up in a couple of trivial paragraphs.

A university's teachers get awards for teaching? Big deal. First, there is no test for quality of teaching. There's not even general agreement about what quality of teaching means. And the awards, almost all of them, mean nothing. I was nominated for one, but backed out when I realized it was simply an advertising gimmick for a company that hadn't the faintest idea what teaching was about.

In short, there is no best or worst university in Canada for teaching. They're all bad.

Nor are there remarkable differences in discipline training among professors in the various universities. Most have PhDs from pretty much the same range of universities So far as knowing enough of the subject matter to teach it, all are pretty much identical. There are some differences. McGill has the most arrogant professors I have ever met. Queen's has the stodgiest. Too bad MacLean's didn't measure that category.

Research? Almost all professors are research oriented because that's the only part of university they understand. But there's no way to measure the quality of their research. The result is a rush to publish -anything, then count them all up to see who is champ. That's why libraries groan under the weight of scholarly journals that few people will ever read. Your tax dollars at work.

Do good researchers make good teachers? There's not the slightest evidence they do. The worst teacher I ever had in university was a man whose manner actually encouraged a hatred for the subject. He was also the most distinguished Canadian historian of his time. The most arrogant, most destested by students, and most publicly belittling of them in my teaching experience was one of the universty's outstanding researchers, and has been much honoured in the academic world. But MacLean's thinks research (measured by weight, I guess)  is a key factor in defining a "best university".

Small classes make a "best" university? Sorry. A small class taught by an inept teacher is still a stinker. I have been a student in classes of as few as five that were a complete waste of time. To sat that small classes are better simply because they're small is like saying it's better to have a heart operation from a person with no training than to be one of two being operated on by an expert surgeon.

Meanwhile, MacLean's does damage. The universities are all in a rush to score well in rankings that are scientficially childish - and they're too gutless to go public, too scared to say this is all nonsense. As a result, they are pricing themselves out of reach for the sake of mounds of research. And they are paying almost no attention, as usual, to the quality of their teaching. The result?  I looked over my undergraduate record recently. I was amazed at how I had not only forgotten almost all I crammed into my head to pass, but had forgotten even what the courses were about.

The universities need basic rethinking of what they're all about. Instead, we're getting marketing games and magazine editors who don't know what they're talking about being praised by newspaper editors who don't know what they're taking about.

Meanwhile, New Brunswick is going through the early stages in the biggest change in education in centuries. Have you heard anything about it from the professors of education? I haven't. In fact, what has always been the most striking feature of all the unveristies of New Brunswick (and most other places) is their failure to have any intellectual impact on the society around them. I think we're supposed to just clap hands and pay taxes for them because that's the way they like it.

Hint for Mount A. Do you have a New Brunswick history course that explains the historical connection between big business and government in this province? One that might shed some light on why we're in financial trouble? And might explain why there's something farcical about a business summit to find a solution?

You could teach the course, then offer speakers for the many communities surrounding Sackville - you know, ordinary people - some of whom might be interested to learn what they can never learn from The Moncton Times and Tribune. You could actually bring your knowledge to the service of everybody who pays taxes,and wake the province out of its passivity.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lest We Forgot

Just in time for rememberance day, prime minister Harper announced that Canadian troops would stay in Afghanistan (in a "non-combat" role - wink, wink - there is no non-combat role in Afghanistan) until at least 2014. In effect, that means forever. Then he added the customary phrase of the day that we remember those Canadian who died to preserve our freedom.

Actually, the first people of this land who died trying to save their freedom were the native peoples who fell to French invaders. Then both the French and the natives lost to British invaders.

But 1776 and 1815, the people then living in Canada won two in a row - beating Americans who invaded to take our freedom.

The next war we fought (skipping lightly over the crushing of the western native peoples and Metis) was against the Boer farmers in South Africa. But I don't think they were threatening to invade us or take away our freedom. Similarly, it's hardly likely the Germans had the will or capacity to invade us in 1914. We were fighting a British war. That's why the Americans stayed out of it for so long. We were ini only because we didn't have the freedom to stay out. Britain declared war for us.

Even in the Second World War, it was way beyond the ability of Germans, Italians or Japanese to invade us and take away our freedom. That's why it took a Pearl Harbour to draw the Americans into the war.

Historically, then, the only countries that have ever invaded us, or even threatened to, were Britain and the US. Strangely, I didn't hear a word of appreciation of people this country who died in those invasions.

Oh, we did get one bonus out of it all. After World War One, we got the right to decide for ourselves, through people and parliament, who and when and where and if we would go to war. Harper has taken us back to the bad old colonial days of ignoring parliament and people.

He has decided to extend the war. Did he ask you first?

On a closely related subject, he promised ALL support for Israel in case of some conflict. That's a promise to got to war for Israel. Well,okay. But isn't that the sort of thing parliament is supposed to decide? And isn't that right one of the things we supposedly remember and are grateful for on November 11?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day. Nov. 11, 2010

Today, Moncton observed the time and the day Geramny surrendered in 1918 - the 11th hour of the eleventh day of the 11th month. The arena was filled to its 4000 seat capacity with another thousand of so veterans, soldiers, cadets, boy scouts, girl guides and brownies standing rigidly at ease for the full hour.

Our soldiers had given their lives for Canadian freedom, we were told, in two world wars, Korea, and Afghanistan. That message was reinforced by by the several clergymen (Christians only) who implied that God looks on all this with pride. The crowd  in attendance was obviously moved. Perhaps that was because there was so much that wasn't mentioned.

The millions of civilians who died were not mentioned. But all four of those wars have been notable more for the deaths of innocent civilians, babies to elderly, than of soldiers. That's the nature of modern war.

It also skipped some wars - the French invasion, the British invasion, the two American invasion, the Sudan war, and the Boer war. Maybe that's because the only Canadians who died in two of them were doing it were batuve peoples trying to protect their freedom. As for the two American invasions in which thousands of Canadians did die to protect their freedom - well - they couldn't have mentioned that without feeling awkward about the American flag being up with the leaders in the parade.

In fact, the freedom of the people who live in Canada has been threatened only in four wars -the French invasion, the British invasion, and the two American invasions. There was never a danger of a Boer, German, French or Japanese invasion of North America. (That's why Roosevelt had to wait for Pearl Harbour before he could get support for a war.)

Nor did most of our soldiers join up to defend freedom. I knew many of them - my father, my uncle, the older boys in my father's scout troop, neighbours, the 16 year old who left school when we were in grade four and often came to play with me because he was retarded. He stole his brother's draft papers (He was a very big kid), and  joined the Black Watch. Six months later, he was lying face down in the mud of Germany just over the Dutch border, sobbing in terror. Then he jumped up, screaming, and a machine gun cut him in half."Hell," said our neighbour who joined with him, "He was only a kid. Sixteen. "Funny thing. When he jumped up, he was screaming for his mother."

Check the statistics for the two world wars. There was a depression on in both cases. Men joined up to feed their families. Kids joined up for adventure, and jobs. Once the war factories opened up,voluntary enlistment plummetted, and we had to go to the draft.

But the ceremony ignored all that. In the end, it remembered by glorifying deaths that should have been grieved,  and by mythologizing the whole business of war. And the church was there to stir it well with God's blessing.

I watched my son, an army cadet, march by behind the Canadian, American, and British flags to the beat of a drum. This wasn't about remembering the tragedies of the past. It was about preparing us to look to glory in the tragedies yet to come..

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This amazing age

We are living through an amazing age - and nobody seems to give a damn.
1. The Obama White House is now fighting a court battle to preserve a power assumed by the president - to order the assassination of anybody, including American citizens, with no charge, no trial, no nothing. Just a matter of giving an order. The test case involves a moslem - so it's quite possible Obama will get away with this. And that is pretty well the end of any democracy that was left in the US constitution. Indeed, I have never heard of any democracy allowing such arbitrary powers to a leader. This has more commonly been the style of Hitler and Stalin and Mao.

Haven't noticed it in the news? No. that's because they're too busy following the big story of how the Mt. A. football team is doing.

2. The Supreme court has also decided that a corporation is a person - with all the rights of a person. Therefore, corporations can now give parties as much as they like - just like real people. Well, perhaps it's not that important. Corporations in Canada and the US have been buying governments and taking over government for years in both countries.In fact, corporations get bailed out. Persons don't.
Despite the wording of the constitution, it was never true in the US that all people were created equal. Even as those words were written, the US economy was based on slave labour. And his has depended on cheap labour ever since.

3. Corporations have also bought most of the education system in the US, and are buying it up in Canada, too. The broad aim is to train students only to work for the corporations - be on time, follow orders, don't think. To that end, the Humanities programmes in the universities are dead meat. Corporations need thinking only at the executive level. That level will be filled by the children of the rich who are able to afford the cost of private schools. The rest will get education run by private investors for private profit to turn out cheap and obedient labour for when the rich kids take over from their daddies and mommies.

The results are already showing in the US as its educational rating compared to public schools around the world continues to drop from an already miserable eighteenth to twenty-fifth. But you won't find that in the news, either. (To be fair, most journalists don't even understand what's happening. So it's easy to churn out the propaganda their owners want.)

It's an amazing age. We're moving on from democracy to a social structure in which property has more rights than people, and some people, very few, have a lot more rights than all the rest of us. We're moving from the age of freedom based on law, to rule based on the power of a leader to assassinate at whim.

How long will it hold together? Not very. The US, no matter who gets elected, is already committed to eternal war. And Canada will follow it. Neither country can economically or socially take the strain of that. Corporate greed, news media propaganda, and public indifference is about to take us where Rome took its people. Enjoy the games while they last.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Real Story Comes Out

Diane Ravitch is a distinguished scholar, and such an avid conservative that she gladly joined Bush's Whitehouse to work on what is variously called accountability in schools - or standardized testing - or ranking of schools - or privatization of schools in general. She gave support to newspapers like the Moncton T and T that denigrated public schools and their teachers. She is a prime designed of George Bush's No Child Left Behind programme, the one that elevated the idea that schools should be tested by standardized tests, and teachers and schools judged on the basis of them.

The Economist is probably the most highly respected of conservative news commentary magazines in the world. In June of 2010, it published an interview with Diane Revitch.

She says she's sorry she got involved. It doesn't work. The tests are invalid to compare either teachers or schools. Competition doesn't work in education. The American government and the "think tanks" are faking data to show improvement where, in fact, performance is going down. There is no improvement. The success rate is man made - by simply lowering the required standard each year.

This very conservative woman who was a leader in standardized testing and rating of schools now says what just about every educational researcher has said for sixty years. It doesn't work. It just puts public money into private pockets.

Will we see this story in The Moncton Times? If that paper had any integrity we would. So it's a sure thing we won't see it in The Moncton Times. I shall also send a copy to the Minister of Education. What will he do? See my comment for The Moncton Times. I have also send it to the New Brunswick home and school association. Will they do anything? Not bloody likely.

New Brunswick has an amazingly submissive population. They'd rather their children's education be ruined rather than stand up like free people and protest about AIMS and its greedy plans to make the rich even richer at the price of our children.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Moncton Pravda

The newspaper Pravda was the official propaganda sheet of the Soviet Union. Long ago, I read translations of it, and felt sorry for those millions who relied on it to tell the truth. (I think Pravda is the Russian word for "truth".) Reading it, I could at least understand how people living under a dictator could think it was the finest form of govenment ever designed. The newspaper, after all, was and is still a major source of information about the world and our place in it. It told them they were in paradise. So they believed it.

Alas! I learned in many years of writing and broadcasting for news media that one can never tell the whole truth on any news medium. Most newspapers in North America are part Pravda. The Moncton Times, thanks to its advertising and it's boosterism disguised as "news", is not completely Pravda. But it comes close.

I learned tonight that it had a report of my talk to the DEC of district two. But not a word of it appeared in the paper. They were too busy blaming the DEC and the school superintendent for closing a dangerous school; and they're still at it.

(They can certainly be excused from quoting from my talk. After all, it's by now obvious that they are so petty they will not list my current events group meeting at the library in the Weekly Events edition. That's okay. The Times decision makers are ethical as well as intellectual midgets. But they also had my 35 pages of evidence showing that the public school ranking system is invalid; and showing that the US public schools which have been using the standardized tests and rankings for thirty years were eighteenth in the UN ratings of public schools - with Canada in fourth place. Since then, the US has dropped to twenty-fifth in the world.)

The Times has been playing a propaganda game from the start. It has never raised any criticism at all about AIMS. It has never even hinted at the existence of a large body of evidence that shows that AIMS is a propaganda agency for big business. New Brunswick is making the biggest change in education in several hundred years. The Times has yet to even recognize the nature of the change. Both reporting and editorial writing on education has been ignorant and biased.

Now it is stepping up the game of blame, this time hitting at the DEC and the superintendent, and blaming them for years of neglect of education by New Brunswick's governments, years of underfunding, years of interference in school to profit private business. I might be inclined to blame all New Brunswickers. Well, I do blame them all, at least a bit.

You tolerate a press that keeps you in ignorance, and that pumps out ignorance and bias in support of the same corporate powers that are the owners of both the governing party and the opposition.

The fundamental requirement of democracy is that people must have access to information. They cannot vote intelligently in an election unless they know at least the fundamentals of what is going on. New Brunswickers don't have the foggiest understanding of the essential issues that face this province. That's why we just had an election with neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives exhibiting any sense of political philosophy, and without any platform that went beyond trivial buzzwords.

New Brunswick is not a democracy. Voting means nothing without basic information on which to base your voting choices. New Brunswick is not a democracy. New Brunswick is a corporate dictatorship as much as the Soviet Union was a communist dictatorship. The Times and Transcript is our corporate Pravda.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How To Lie Without ACTUALLY Lying

I've been away, and have now been catching up on my daily thrill of writing about the The Moncton TandT. It was about October 20 that a real gem appeared.

In protest against the closing of Moncton High (it was structurally dangerous) and the general shifting of elementary and high school students which followed, there was a well advertised rally of affected and angry parents who blamed the local schools administration and the DEC (an elected body representing parents) for the problem. Evidently, the assignment editor at the TandT decided this was the big story of the day because Tand T reporters took bushels of notes of angry protest and denunciation aimed at DEC and the superintendent of schools.

Actually, those education people had nothing to do with it. The reality is that New Brunswick schools have been so starved for funds to provide even basic education that students now have to be billed even for office paper. Almost all schools have obvious signs of serious neglect of maintenance. That's not the DEC or the Superintendent. That's the government and the minister of education. It's also the corporations who fund both the Liberals and Conservatives, and who make it clear they want taxes kept down, and to hell with the safety of children.

However, an assignment editor with bills to pay has to remember that the newspaper ownership smiles on any news that puts the public schools into a bad light. So reporters were assigned to the protest. The next day, the story was front page with another, almost full page, inside. The bulk of it was interviews with angry parents blaming the DEC and the Superintendent. That's the sort of coverage for a really big story - like another geriatric rock group coming to Moncton or, perhaps, the beginning of World War Three. (If they happened on the same day, World War Three would probably get only a brief mention under the daily list of celebrity birthdays.)

In fact, it wasn't a big story at all. The total number of angry parents was 20. Count them. Twenty. That's something less than one percent of all the parents affected by the changes. Ninety-nine percent didn't care enough to show up.

The Times story, being "honest", mentioned there were only twenty. But that didn't matter. The final message of the story could only be that DEC and the superintendent were in trouble for neglect -and that public schools were inefficient. The unwritten message was "we need more privatization."

Lying without ACTUALLY lying is unethical. But it's common in almost all North American newspapers - and more than a few overseas.

As it happened, I presented a report at the DEC meeting that same night. There was a reporter at the back of the room, and another, right in front of me, who was a senior writer for the Tand T. I issued a copy of a government survey to parents. This survey has a response of 99%. (Compare that to the protest rally.) It showed almost 90% parent approval of New Brunswick schools. I also presented evidence that the UN ranks the Canadian public schools with those of the top four countries of the world. The UN now places US education in tewnty-fifth spot, under Slovenia. (But the US system is the one The Times and, presumably, its ownership wants us to copy.)

Despite the presence of two reporters at least, not a word of what I said appeared - or ever will appear - in The Times. Watch them for more news about how terrible our schools are, and how much better it would be if we followed the wise leaders of the puppet clowns at Atlantic Insitute for Market Studies.